Fresh off the success of last year’s “21st Century Tank Girl,” series creator Alan Martin and artist Brett Parson send Tank Girl and her mayhem-loving crew on another ball-busting adventure through the Outback. Martin’s superbly demented story and Parson’s zany, richly detailed art are a winning combination in “Tank Girl: Two Girls One Tank #1,” where they do the unthinkable and take away Tank Girl’s tank. But whether it was stolen or Booga lost it in a poker game really doesn’t matter, damn it — Tank Girl needs a tank!
Martin complicates the plot from the first panel by introducing art gallery owner Magnolia Jones as a second Tank Girl. This splits the action of the book into parallel stories of Tank Girl’s quest to get another tank (she’s planning a bodacious heist, of course), and the transformation Jones undergoes when she comes into possession of said missing tank. While Martin ensures that Tank Girl and friends remain true to their punk forms and behaviors, it’s the transition Jones makes to release her inner punk that steals the show. His message is clear: there is an inner punk in all of us just awaiting the arrival of a certain World War II-era tank.
Parson’s art is an over-the-top joy that deliberately expresses the humor always present with Tank Girl; the small panels where Tank Girl helms a small tank, Barney drives the motorbike and Booga brings up the rear in a “shitty little fairground tank” speak volumes about each of their characters, while making readers laugh at the absurd circumstances. From a “Friday The 13th Part Four” T-shirt to the smiling sun in the sky to the police uniforms that appear to be pre-“Judge Dredd,” Parson incorporates the small details that lend depth to the characters and weight to the storyline while still stepping on convention.
But is Tank Girl relevant in 2016? As a post-apocalyptic punk character from 1988, what does she offer audiences today? The same thing she offered to fans from the start: a middle-finger salute to all those who don’t think you should simply be yourself.
Tank Girl is to indie comics what punk rock is to music. An empowered female character leading the action in a comic wasn’t exactly commonplace in 1988, in the same way female lead singers weren’t exactly commonplace during the birth of punk music in the mid-1970s. Patti Smith is a good example for this: her profound influence on the music that followed “Horses” is a legacy that has persisted for more than 40 years, but — if Smith were to re-record the album today — she wouldn’t use 1975 sound equipment and mirror her original vocal effort; artists evolve with time and experience, and so do characters in comics.
Alan Martin’s Tank Girl is a subversive, unpredictable catastrophe-causer who is fiercely loyal to her mates. That much hasn’t changed, but her adventures will because Martin has evolved with time and experience. Her punk ideals of independence, equality and anti-authoritarianism are as alive and well in Martin’s current script as they were in 1988, and — although her storylines evolve — she doesn’t sell out her authenticity in “Tank Girl: Two Girls One Tank” #1.
“Tank Girl: Two Girls One Tank” #1 is an excellent marriage of story and art. It won’t be every reader’s cup of tea, but it will definitely appeal to everyone with an inner punk and a desire to see Tank Girl kick ass.